In my book Take Control of Mac OS X Backups I mention the existence of several software-plus-online-storage combos that enable Mac users to back up their files to a nice secure server somewhere out there on the net. But I don’t express much enthusiasm about them, because they’re generally quite slow and unreasonably expensive compared to my favorite backup medium, external hard drives.
However, even since the book’s last update in January, the landscape has been changing. New online services are crawling out of the woodwork, old ones are revamping their pricing, and services that formerly supported only Windows are coming up with Mac software. There’s still a speed problem, even with a fast connection, but at least the options are increasing and prices are decreasing.
As of today, here are the options I know about that include both online storage space and backup software that runs on Mac OS X. (I’ve excluded online storage services that can be used for backup only with your own backup software, simply because that would have made the list absurdly long.)
- .Mac*: Apple’s own service comes with a backup program called, inventively enough, Backup. But it’s pricey, at $100 per year for 1 GB of storage space (which you can bump up to as much as 4 GB for an extra $100). If you decide to use .Mac, you will of course want to read my book Take Control of .Mac!
- BackJack*: The oldest online Mac backup service I know of, BackJack has respectable client software and prices that are improved from what they once were, but is still very expensive compared to some of the other options now available. (Example: 50 GB = $257.50 per month, or $120.50 without redundant backups.) The BackJack service is also available via Mac Backups using the same software and at the same price; I’m not sure what the point of that additional brand is.
- Bandwagon: This service is currently for iTunes backups only, though it may expand to cover other data types in the future. As a beta tester, I’ve been underwhelmed, but perhaps they’ll get it together before their next relaunch. Bandwagon uses Amazon.com’s S3 (Simple Storage Service), which charges $0.15 per gigabyte per month plus $0.20 per gigabyte transferred (upload or download). So the maximum cost per month for backing up 50 GB of data would be $17.50. However, you must also pay for the use of the Bandwagon software, which costs $1 to $3 per month, depending on when you order it and which version you get. In the future, they plan to support other online storage services too.
- Clunk Click*: This backup service, located in the United Kingdom, doesn’t make it easy to find their pricing, which starts at £5 (about $9.50) per month for 550 MB of storage up through £40 per month (about $76) for 20 GB, with several other levels available.
- CrashPlan: I covered this newcomer in “Crash Plan: Backups Revisited” (TidBITS 868/26-Feb-07). You get a sophisticated and highly efficient client program, plus inexpensive online storage and the option to use a friend’s computer instead (or in addition). Pricing: 50 GB for $5 per month (with additional storage at $0.10 per gigabyte), plus the price of the software ($20–$60).
- Datatrieve*: Located in the United Kingdom, Datatrieve uses a Java-based client. They charge £5 (about $9.50) per month for 1 GB of storage, and £125 (about $245) per month for 50 GB. Intermediate levels and higher storage quotas are available.
- JungleDisk*: This application (free while in beta testing; $20 eventually) works in conjunction with Amazon.com’s S3, as does Bandwagon. Unlike earlier versions of JungleDisk, which merely gave you access to your S3 space as though it were a conventional network volume, the latest version has some basic backup capabilities built in. No multi-version archives or partial-file incremental backups yet, but supposedly those features on on their way.
- MacBak: This service offers full-blown, multi-version archives, and its aimed primarily at graphics professionals and other creative types. Make that creative types with money: rates start at $89 per month, not counting the $89 setup fee, for 10 GB of new data added each month and a total of 120 GB per year—an odd way of metering. Higher-level (and more expensive) plans use an appliance that sits in your office and provides temporary storage for backups while on their way to the company’s servers, thus adding a layer of security and minimizing the impact of bandwidth bottlenecks.
- MillerNET Protect Online Backup: This service uses a “rebrandable” cross-platform commercial backup tool called Ahsay that’s frankly pretty ugly (especially on a Mac), but functional. It includes partial-file incremental archives (like CrashPlan) and a large number of configuration options. MillerNET offers free 500 MB accounts, and has several pricing tiers ranging from $10 per month to $100 per month (the 50 GB plan costs $70 per month).
- mozy: This online storage service previously offered backup clients only for Windows, but now has (an early beta version of) a Mac client as well. And the price is certainly right: you get 2 GB free, or unlimited storage space for only $5 per month. Early adopters, beware: the current beta is pretty buggy. But if they get the kinks worked out, the pricing is going to make this a very interesting solution.
- Offsite Backup Solutions: Like MillerNET, OSB uses the Ahsay software. But their pricing is less attractive—for example, the monthly cost for 50 GB is $100. They offer a free 30-day demo, but you must provide credit card information up front and manually cancel your account before the 30 days are up to avoid being charged, a practice I consider kind of slimy.
- Prolifix*: Prolifix uses cross-platform, Java-based software. The company charges $9.95 per month for 500 MB of storage and $28.95 per month for 8 GB, with intermediate levels available. (Prices for higher storage quotas available on request.)
- S3 Backup: In the same vein as JungleDisk, S3 Backup uses Amazon.com’s S3 for storage space. Although their Mac software is still in beta testing and still pretty rough, it shows promise. It remains to be seen whether it will support incremental archives and how it will deal with files larger than S3’s 5 GB limit.
Covered in *Take Control of Mac OS X Backups version 2.0.
So what do I recommend? Well, considering price alone, mozy is the clear winner, with CrashPlan a close contender (equivalent in pricing if you’re storing 50 GB or less, and pretty reasonable thereafter). The solutions that use S3 (Bandwagon, JungleDisk, and S3 Backup) benefit from Amazon.com’s pricing—a bit higher, but still respectable. In terms of functionality, none of the inexpensive services can yet match the feature set of conventional backup software, or of the more established online backup services such as BackJack. But they’re getting close. If I had to choose just one of these today, I’d pick CrashPlan, which seems to offer the best compromise. But ask me again tomorrow and I may have a totally different answer—things are changing rapidly.